These are albatrosses. Throughout the summer, several have been spotted outside of our house. I have observed that these birds are extremely awkward on land. It’s almost indescribable. For starters, they move in a bobbing, waddling fashion. They also lose their gray baby feathers in a way that makes them look like they’re balding. I even saw an albatross with gray feathers only on its top half. Although they are entertaining birds, I wouldn’t say they are the most beautiful or graceful.
I have often felt like an albatross myself. Awkward, out of place, covered in rough patches of gray feathers. I struggle with conventional beauty standards. Society constantly tells me that I shouldn’t look like, well, me. My skin isn’t smooth enough, my stomach isn’t flat enough, and my nose isn’t small enough. I especially struggle with this at Duke. Everyone on campus is constantly reaching for perfection, including in appearance. It makes it harder for me to appreciate my own insecurities.
However, I’ve noticed that my confidence has grown in my time on Kauai. It’s difficult to explain, but I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin here. My go-to look has become an open button down with a bralette — something I would never venture to wear on campus. I dress up for no specific occasions at all, sporting decorative rings to group dinners and bodycon dresses to casual outings. I would like to think my bold style has even become a part of my brand here.
I have bonded with a few people in the house over struggles with appearance. These conversations have aided me in not feeling like I am alone in what I have been through (and continue to go through). One of the most powerful conversations for me, however, occurred with a girl I have gotten close with during the span of this program. She told me that I have inspired her to be more confident in herself. Eight weeks ago, I would never imagine that I could empower someone like that. It made my heart swell.
Albatrosses are awkward on land, and, in their early stages, their feathers are blotchy and scattered. However, once an albatross fledges, it is graceful and aerodynamic. Its tufts of gray fluff shed, revealing its crisp, beautiful, white adult feathers. After fledging, it will stay in the air for 4 to 5 years, which takes immense endurance and strength.
So yes, maybe I am similar to an albatross. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, I’ve grown to love these birds, just like I’ve grown to love myself.